If you don’t know it already, I’m a sucker for mimicry and camouflage in animals. Who is not amazed by the varied ways animals have evolved to resemble other animals, inanimate parts of the environment, or to possess other traits that deceive predators or prey? And yet, with all the cases we know, even more ways of being deceptive keep coming to light.
This is one of them, just posted by the estimable Alex Wild on his insect/photography website Myrmecos (photographs taken by Adam Lazarus). It involves the misdirection of predators achieved by evolving an “upside down” body morph. Alex’s notes:
A predatory bird aiming at an apparent moth body will find little more than the empty space between the butterfly’s hindwings, giving our upside-down trickster a chance to escape.
As best I can tell this is a common mapwing, Cyrestis thyodamas. I’m not a Lepidopterist though, so take this ID with a grain of salt.
[UPDATE: I think Wild made an error here, as at least one reader noted. The common mapwing is a butterfly, not a moth, though Wild implies the latter.]
If you saw this on your wall at a distance, you’d naturally assume that the head of the beast was at the top. So would a bird!
Below is a closeup of the body. Note how the moth rests upside down, which also misdirects predators. Predatory birds, I suspect, have either evolved or learned to attack the “top” side of a resting lepidopteran, which will provide further misdirection. Note, too, that “upside down resting” is probably an evolved trait, so both morphology and behavior have been subject to natural selection.
h/t: Matthew Cobb